SCRAPBUSTERS: A trio of Ballerinas and a duo of nameless panties

Here’s a random fact about me: I hate waste. I have a horror of landfill, and although I am nowhere near eco-warrior status, I am all too aware of the dangers of the “disposable” trend that seems to be the norm these days. I think that one of the great things about sewing is that we are more likely to make garments we love and will use, but what about all the leftover bits of fabric that end up languishing in a storage box, or the garments that hang in the wardrobe, unloved and unworn? If you read my post about my sewing resolutions for 2018, you might remember that I said I wanted to make use of things I already have rather than buying more. Well, when I made a recent version of Jenny Hellström’s Ballerina top, I remembered how narrow the pattern pieces are (because it’s such a slim fit top), making it perfect for using up remnants. My love for this pattern knows no bounds, so today I want to show you three scrapbusting modifications I made to it to use up my remnants, including one epic rescue mission.

Three, you say? But what about that “slow sewing” resolution from only a week ago? Fear not, the makes in this post were sewn bit by bit over the last two months, but all blogged together as they’re quite similar!

My standard “no good at building up suspense” opening pic

The first pieces of leftover fabric were this Girl Charlee floral, which I had left over from my GBSB Dune dress. Because the maxi dress pattern pieces are so much wider at the bottom than at the top, there are decent-sized chunks of fabric left over beside the bodice part after cutting out; they’re wide enough to cut sleeves from, and they’re also just big enough to accommodate the bodice pieces of a Ballerina top! I’d already used some of the remnants of this fabric to make a top for my daughter, so I was quite limited in what I had left. I had just enough for a front and back, but then not enough single pieces for the sleeves. So I decided to do a small modification to the pattern, and shorten the sleeves.

Sideways glance. I’d like to say I was contemplating my sleeves, but really I was just hoping to get the photos done before the rain came.

Since the sleeve is so close-fitting, I didn’t need to alter the line at all, just mark where I’d have to cut it off. I had just enough to make elbow-length sleeves: this isn’t a length I used to like, but since we offered it as an option on the Cassandra pattern, I’ve been getting more into it, so I decided to go for that rather than “short short” sleeves.

I usually find that designers choose specific features for a reason, and I think the ¾ length sleeves of the original pattern work best with the cut, but this is definitely a cute and very wearable t-shirt of the kind that will be in heavy rotation!

and now I’m looking downwards. There are only so many ways you can photograph a sleeve…

AND, bonus make: there were just enough scraps of offcuts left to try out the latest draft of the panties pattern we’re working on!

pretty panties!

I’m in love with the combination of this floral fabric and the pale coral lace. Plus from three metres of fabric I got a maxi dress, a peplum top for my daughter, a t-shirt, and a pair of knickers. That’s pretty hard-working fabric!

My next scraps were rescued from an early version of the Cassandra dress. When we were drafting we initially put too much swing in it, and it felt sack-like (we felt we’d crossed the line from “eat, drink, be merry, and your tummy still won’t show” to “is she eating for two?”, so went back to the drafting stage!) I’d made it in one of my favourite fabrics, so was gutted when I realised that we needed to make further adjustments. I put it in my wardrobe and thought I’d get some wear out of it anyway… but it just sat there, ignored and unloved. Time to reach for the scissors…

So much better as a Ballerina top!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I always find it hard to cut pattern pieces out of existing garments, because the ones you’re cutting from are often narrower in the wrong place than you need them to be. So I carefully cut all the seams to maximise fabric usage, and managed to get the bodice front and back from the skirt part of the dress. The sleeves could be cut down for the Ballerina sleeves, as the Cassandra ones are slightly wider, and then there was a bit left at the bodice top that wasn’t going to be big enough to save.

Can you spot the difference in this version? Look at the dress version of the Ballerina top on the pattern packet: it has cuffs. Cuffs that would just squeeze into my last little bit of fabric! So I decided to go for it, and make some cuffs for the top.

Behold! Cuffs on the dress version!

Now I do like a cuff. I won’t lie to you: a big part of this is dispensing with the need to hem sleeves. I don’t know why I dislike hemming sleeves, it’s not that it’s hard or anything, but it’s as if in my head it’s harder than it is in reality. So bring on the cuffs.

Cuff love

It’s a nice new twist on a TNT pattern, especially since the pattern itself doesn’t offer a variety of options. I wonder whether it might have been better in a more casual or even contrast fabric, but I do like how it adds some length to the sleeve. Because the fabric print is quite busy, the photos don’t show it brilliantly, but I promise they’re there!

AND there was just enough fabric left from the scraps of the original dress to make… another pair of our new knickers!

Ta-daaa! Scrapbusting like a boss. Plus more pretty lace.

We’re still undecided about a name for these, hence the “nameless panties” of the title. I have a name that I’m 90% certain about, but watch this space…

Anyway, on to the final make… This was less of a desire to use up scraps and more of a rescue mission. I had this idea in my head that it would be great to hack the Dune maxi into a skirt. But you know how I’ve ignored the voice of reason before? I did it again. I cut it off at the high waist instead of the low waist, but attached a waistband that fit my low waist. So it was either too long if I wore the waistband at the right place, or too baggy if I hoiked it up. Also, you know what I said earlier about designers making choices for a reason? Dune is a great dress, because of its skimming lines. You lose the whole skim factor if you make it into a waistbanded skirt. So yes, when I started out on this one my voice of reason might as well have been screaming at me from another room while I sang my heart out wearing headphones and doing the vacuuming, because I just didn’t hear it…

Sit tight, there’s a story behind this top…

Anyway, I was left with two large pieces of navy fabric in a skirt shape. By a wing and a prayer I managed to squeeze the bodice of the Cassandra top and an elbow-length sleeve out of each piece (I’m talking to within a couple of millimetres). While I was attaching the sleeves, I noticed I was struggling to set the sleeves nicely. I thought it was strange, but I put it down to being tired and a bit fed up of my rescue project.

Well, when I came to try on the top, I could barely squeeze my arms into the sleeves.

No, I hadn’t been eating lots of spinach (OK, if you never saw Popeye, that joke just went down like a lead balloon).

Instead of the Cassandra elbow length sleeves, I’d grabbed the pattern piece for a pattern I’d been making for my 4-year-old daughter.

No, don’t ask how I could be so stupid.

My remaining pieces of fabric were even smaller now. No way even my trusty Ballerina top could fit onto those. BUT… part of it could. From about the armscye down, in fact. And I had some remnants of black cotton jersey of roughly the same weight left over from my Rise turtleneck. I managed to get the upper parts of the bodice front and back, plus a neckband, with a tiny bit left over – just big enough for short sleeves – from the black jersey. So I was going to make this a short-sleeved top, until I realised that in my offcuts from the original navy maxi skirt I had a couple of pieces big enough to make the rest of the sleeve piece. Hurray!

I’m going to pretend that this is what these fabrics were destined for all along.

The only drawback is that it’s a bit, well, Vulcan…

Live long and prosper, friends…

Till next time, have a great week!

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25 thoughts on “SCRAPBUSTERS: A trio of Ballerinas and a duo of nameless panties

  1. Rachel

    I loved this post Helen!! What a beautiful way to use up your scraps! I have also been using scraps on Raglan tees. The underwear pattern is adorable S well! Thank you so much for sharing about your makes and your thought process with them, this was such a fun read!!

    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Thanks so much, Rachel! Raglans are a great way to use up scraps because of the mix-and-match potential. I never feel that looks quite right with standard sleeves! I’m happy you like the underwear pattern. I love how something like this brings us closer to “zero waste” sewing, plus how my underwear drawer becomes so much brighter and prettier as a result!

  2. Paula Lansdownr

    Oooh! Love these panties Helen! This takes the the “matchu Matchy” to a whole new level, which as you know appeals to me! ….. brilliant idea & I enjoyed reading this.
    Love Paula xx

    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Hehe, thank you Paula! Yes, it’s going to be so much fun to have a drawer full of panties that match my outfits! And they only need 3 sheets of paper to print so maybe I will be able to persuade you to try a PDF sewing pattern??!! Think of all the matchy matchy possiblities 😉 xxx

  3. Caroline

    Looking forward to trying out the ‘nameless panties’ pattern when it comes out 😊 They are on my ‘to try making’ list.

    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Thank you Caroline, I’m happy you like them! We’ve still got a way to go with the testing and completing but save your jersey scraps! It’s so easy to make knickers, you’ll love doing them I’m sure. And then every outfit can have matching underwear!!

  4. Diane G

    Haha! Live long and prosper….if you hadn’t have said that I never made the connection…all I saw was a cute colour-blocked top that I love! Fun to read about all the cutting shenanigans (love that word!) But how fab that you made use of all those different fabrics. I’ll be donating my off-cuts to a local fire station. Apparently, all over the country they are collecting textiles/clothes/linens and unusable ones get turned into things like carpet felt and such

    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Hehe, thanks Diane! That’s a great idea about your scraps. I still have bags full of scraps as I am far from perfecting “zero waste” and I’m always looking for ways to recycle them so I shall take note of this! xx

    2. Kate

      Hi Diane, when you say textiles are being collected all over the country, is there a specific collection drive or something you have heard of? I’m interested because I’ve just blogged about what happens to donated textiles etc. but sounds like I might have missed something!

      1. valentineandstitch Post author

        I was really interested in this too. Also I remember Diane mentioning last year that she gave scraps to a local sixth form college – they were really happy to have it for their textiles courses. I keep meaning to do this but… [hangs head in shame]…

  5. Kelly

    I really love the whole black/navy color block. Star Trek didn’t even cross my mind lol! I’m a huge supporter of finding creative ways to use your scraps and I’m glad you showcased so many ideas especially the new undies! Can’t wait to try the pattern out! Last month I did a guest blog post on how to use scraps to make undies for Sewalicious. Funny enough I have leftover material from that specific make and I plan to use it for the Cassandra top. Now I will have a matching top and knickers too! 😄💕

    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Thank you Kelly! I wouldn’t have thought of putting black and navy together if it hadn’t been for the desperate refusal to give up on that piece of fabric! I remember your Sewalicious post, that fabric will make a gorgeous Cassandra and the matching undies are the icing on the cake! 💖 Pattern will be a while yet but it’s great for getting through my own scraps as we develop it 👍

  6. Maxine

    Sorry Helen I did have a chuckle about you using the age 4 pattern pieces, and the visual of you trying to get your arms in! Glad you managed to rescue it, they all look lovely on. Look forward to the naming of the nameless panties….😁

    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      It was so daft, I think chuckling at my mistake is the right reaction! I was there thinking “I thought this fabric had 5% spandex? What’s going on?” and then the penny dropped… and thanks re the panties, I shall do a ceremonious naming once we’re 100% certain what they should be called! xx

  7. Beck

    Love the Star Trek top Helen – it looks great! Seems you were destined to accidentally grab the 4 year old’s sleeve!! And the fact that you are currently facing a dilemma as to what to name your panties made me chuckle. It’s not exactly an everyday problem, right?

    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      That made me laugh out loud! I suppose it’s not the greatest dilemma of my life (surely that would be “should I make matching bras?” ;-)) And thank you, yes, let’s pretend I was always supposed to have a Star Trek top!

  8. Sew Sarah Smith

    Hahaha another great post…live long and prosper my friend! I love the idea of making knickers out of leftovers to match my top! But oooh what to call them….
    I love your posts, I find I read and digest every word!

    Sarah xx

    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Aw, thank you my lovely friend! That’s made my day. Yeah, naming our knickers is going to be the new thing 😉 Hold on to your leftovers! (That sounds weird. Why does that sound weird?) xxx

  9. Kate

    Well, this made me laugh 🙂 but glad you managed to save the day and I have total admiration for your gritted teeth and determination and commitment to making panties. My silly thing of the week was to cut out a sweater dress, then thinking it looked short, tried to decipher the instructions in Dutch (La Maison Victor magazine). Turns out I forgot to add seam allowances to all the pieces! We’ll see if a forgiving fit and tight overlocking is enough to save it…

    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Oh no! The dreaded “add your own seam allowance”! That’s actually the only thing I don’t like about the Ballerina pattern too. I once (many years ago) tried to cheat a pattern by just sizing up instead of adding seam allowance… What a mistake that was. Shortcuts are rarely a good idea are they 😕 I hope you can salvage your sweater dress (I thought LMV was French and English?! Dutch must have been very challenging!!), and am glad to have made you smile 😊

      1. Kate

        Yes, I’m not sure why we aren’t all consistent with seam allowances! English indie patterns 1.5cm, US indie patterns sometimes 3/8 or 5/8, French patterns 1cm…. (the ones I’ve noticed anyway). LMV I believe is Belgian magazine. I buy mine at a stopover in Brussels train station when we go to the Netherlands to see my inlaws. I compared it to the newly released English version in the UK and found the UK one only had half the content so I was seriously disappointed!

        1. valentineandstitch Post author

          Yes you’re right, and I see some patterns with 1/4″ seam allowance too. I’ve always gone with 3/8″/ 1cm for knits and 5/8″/ 1.5cm for wovens, I always thought that was standard but I’m wrong! Ah that’s interesting about LMV. I have only seen it in French or English (I don’t want to buy the English version because I don’t like to read a translation of a language I speak!) – I didn’t realise it had cut down on the content too. I would’ve been disappointed too!!

  10. suzy roberts

    Excellent stash busting and I really like the colour blocked version. I´m trying to use up lots of knit scraps around…it always seems to be knits for some reason. I will have to turn to knickers too for the last bits and pieces. Thanks for this post Helen, it was entertaining and didactic! xx

    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Thanks Suzy! It’s funny how everyone seems to like the colour-blocked version that was never intended to be! It must be some kind of cosmic serendiptity that led me to that one 😉 I love using knit scraps to make pretty underwear and highly recommend it. I have some woven scraps too, and I bought a slippers pattern and some wadding – that’s my next plan to use up scraps! Let’s see how it goes though, footwear will be an entirely new venture for me…! xx

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